Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, right, with Morena Senator Ricardo Monreal. Photo: Google


Even if Mexico’s Supreme Court (SCJN) decides to overturn President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s (AMLO) controversial Plan B to essentially eliminate the country’s most important democratic electoral body, the National Electoral Institute (INE), there is a technical loophole that could put it into play for the 2024 presidential election.

As political commentator F. Bartolome in his Templo Mayor column for Mexican daily newspaper Reforma noted on Monday, Feb. 13, warned about how AMLO could exploit that legal loophole to make sure that his so-called Plan B electoral reform would passes “with no room for anyone to challenge it,” López Obrador may have an ace up his sleeve to get around the SCJN.

“Since Plan B of the electoral reform will no doubt advance smoothly in the Senate, experts in legal issues warn that one of the biggest ruses of López Obrador’s so-called Fourth Transformation (4T) government is shaping up,” wrote Bartolome.

“According to the experts, if the approval goes forward at the end of the (Senate) session, the closest to April 30, the president could take up to 40 days to publish the reform in the government’s Official Gazette of the Federation (DOF).”

Bartolome, in his column, was essentially warning that López Obrador could then wait until the last minute to publish the law in the DOF in order to avoid any stiff challenge from critics and opposition groups.

“That is, López Obrador could do it in the evening edition of May 31 … so as not to leave room for anyone to challenge it. Something to remember is the fact that June 1 is the deadline for any modification to the electoral rules,” Bartolome wrote.

“So today, more than ever, the vigilance of citizens will be essential, in order to prevent the 4T electoral coup from being consummated. Mexican society should be able to raise its hands to defend itself.”

Norma de la Cruz, a counselor at the INE, agreed and said that once AMLO’s Plan B is approved and published in the DOF, it should begin to be implemented.

“Once it is approved, that is the legal framework that we have, and what we have to work with,” she said, and then talked about how the INE and her colleagues are protesting the Plan B implementation by focusing instead on its constitutionality — or, in this case, unconstitutionality.

“When we protest as electoral advisers, we protest to enforce the Mexican Constitution and the laws that emanate from it — all of them,” De la Cruz said. “Not just the ones we like, not just the ones we don’t like, and regardless of the legislative process of this electoral reform proposal.”

Officials at the INE have been actively protesting against the electoral reform, and encouraging the Mexican public to “rebel against” AMLO’s Plan B.

“This is the moment in which citizens individually or collectively can — and I believe they must, we must, if we want to defend democracy — present all resources available to us, within the legal channels,” Lorenzo Córdova, head of the INE, said on Jan. 29, adding that “now is the time to defend democracy,” and that “apathy is fertile ground for authoritarianism.”

“The law is the law — let’s not pretend that they themselves (members of AMLO’s leftist ruling party, the National Regeneration Movement, or Morena) don’t come to me with that,” said Córdova.

“Within the legal channels, we must urge those who will have to make the final decision, our constitutional judges, to make the right choice, so that they fulfill this task of deciding on the Plan B electoral reform as stated in the Mexican Constitution.”

Córdova and the INE likewise recently requested an audience with Morena Senator Ricardo Monreal, president of the Political Coordination Board (Jucopo) of the Mexican Senate, as well as with members of the Jucopo. The closed-door meeting between INE officials, Monreal and eight leaders of the Jucopo was conducted on the afternoon of Thursday, Feb. 9.

The INE electoral advisors told Reforma that after the meeting, the senators were increasingly concerned about López Obrador’s Plan B.

INE counselor José Roberto Ruiz Saldaña said that at the end of the meeting, it was Monreal who was more concerned about the implications of the electoral reform law, for which the Morena senator and Jucopo president promised to “find a way to deepen the dialogue” with the INE officials.

Counselor Jaime Rivera pointed out that although the meeting with Monreal was important, significant and appreciated, it was also a little too late, since it would have been more optimal to discuss the implications of Plan B before it was voted on.

Another INE counselor, Dania Ravel, said that although the meeting with Monreal and members of Jucopo was held late, the INE would certainly accept succeeding dialogues with Jucopo, if offered.

“It would have been much more fruitful if it had happened a few months ago, in December,” Ravel said. “I think it was the opportune moment for it to be possible. However, it is in the field of the legislative branch. Obviously, they have their own procedures.”

For his part, Monreal denied that he had washed his hands of the electoral reform.

“I faced various criticisms and reactions, but I never evaded my responsibility, because speaking truthfully is the most consistent thing to do. The truth means not avoiding anything,” Monreal said in a statement posted on various social media.

It must be noted, though, that Monreal previously stated that “It will have to be the Mexican Supreme Court that decides on these (Plan B) issues.”

However, for Plan B to reach the court and be overturned, the Senate would have to approve a pending article in the law, and there is still no scheduled date for that session. Monreal announced on Friday, Feb. 10, that “the possibility” of ruling on the “eternal life” article that is pending in the Senate could be voted on Tuesday, Feb. 21.

To enter into force, Plan B must be revised before the month of June, as stated by Bartolome in his column, which warned about the loophole AMLO could take advantage of and exploit, by waiting to publish the law in the DOF until the last minute, on the evening of May 31.

The contentious “eternal life” article or clause allows Morena’s minor satellite parties and rubber-stampers, the Green Party (PVEM) and Labor Party (PT), to carry over their voter registration from year-to-year – even if failing to meet the legally established minimum of 3 percent of votes in an election.

Meanwhile, a potential counter to this loophole that López Obrador might look to exploit could be a public rally on Sunday, Feb. 26, in downtown Mexico City’s main square Zócalo, organized by the united civic front Unid@s — which is made up of more than 80 civil society organizations, essentially an opposition bloc against AMLO’s Plan B.

Unid@s announced on Monday, Feb. 13, that retired Supreme Court Justice José Ramón Cossío and journalist Beatriz Pagés will be the main speakers at the Feb. 26 rally. The group also said that the protest will be replicated in more than 62 cities in Mexico and around the world, including Madrid and Washington, D.C.

Unid@s, in a statement, said it believes that AMLO’s Plan B reform “violates the independence and capacities of the electoral body and puts democracy in the country at risk.”

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